Canadian election – high turnout and crucial immigrant vote?

October 14, 2015

By David Sapsted, Relocated Global Magazine |

Advanced polling over four – instead of the usual three – days last weekend resulted in 2.4 million Canadians turning out to vote, despite long queues at some ridings’ polling stations. The figure represented a 16 per cent increase on the figure four years ago.

The figure was considerably higher than predicted “so in that sense, it was exciting that so many people are coming out to vote,” Elections Canada spokesman Dugald Maudsley told the CBC.

Nathalie de Montigny, also from Elections Canada, admitted to the Toronto Star that the increased volume of voters had taken the agency by surprise.

“While Elections Canada had prepared for a higher than usual turnout on the first day of advance polls, the level of activity on Friday exceeded our expectations,” she said.

And as the row rumbled on over depriving Canadian expats the right to vote after they had been out of the country more than five years, one long-time expatriate discovered a provision in the Canada Elections Act that enabled him to cast his ballot.

Will Gartshore, who now lives in Washington, turned up at the advanced polling station in his parents’ home town of Saulte Ste Marie, Ontario, to cast his vote.

Although he was originally turned away, election officials checked the act, which introduced the ban on long-time expats, and found that those living abroad for more than five years were still entitled to vote should they show up in person in their old riding and produce documentation proving previous residency.

“It feels great to have won this fight to exercise my right to have a voice in this election, particularly in a riding with a neck-and-neck race,” Mr Gartshore told the Canadian Press after finally being allowed to cast his ballot.

In a bid to encourage others to vote on October 19, a student at the University of British Columbia has posted a video on Facebook highlighting Canada’s low voter turnout in the 2011 election. In the first few days, it attracted more than 800,000 hits.

“I tried to make it as simple as possible and non-partisan to get everyone out,” he told CBC. “It started getting some momentum round about Saturday morning, so I made a French version and put it up Saturday night.”

He said the idea was to illustrate that every vote counts and that a small number of people could elect a government.

Polls suggest that the outcome of the election is becoming too close to call, with the Liberals making gains on the ruling Conservatives.

The UK’s Guardian commented on Wednesday, “A Canadian election campaign that began amid widespread concern over a faltering economy has turned into a national referendum on the rights of immigrants, with the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the prime minister, gaining support for its hardline stance against Muslim women who veil their faces in public.

“Although polls show that a substantial majority of Canadians support the government position, opponents have denounced it as a dangerous and even ‘disgusting’ attack on the country’s fragile multi-cultural harmony.

“With the latest polls showing Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party gaining ground on the Tories, all attention now turns to the one large bloc of voters who have yet to signal their intentions: the hundreds of thousands of immigrants concentrated in the 100-mile suburban sprawl surrounding Toronto.

“The irony is that a Canadian election campaign dominated by debates over the rights of immigrants is fast becoming a two-way race that will be decided by immigrants – with no accurate information suggesting which way they will swing.”

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